The Big Ten had two games on Wednesday night and both featured ranked teams. Illinois went on the road to face Rutgers in the early game and Northwestern hosted Purdue in the late game.
Let’s take a look at what happened.
Game of the Night:
-Rutgers Scarlet Knights 70, No. 12 Illinois Fighting Illini 59
A few weeks ago, this looked like a complete mismatch. Illinois was rolling, Rutgers had lost three of four, including a rough game against Northwestern, and Illinois had won the first game by 35 points. It was hard to see how the Scarlet Knights would pull off the upset.
But a lot can happen in a few weeks.
Rutgers not only entered Wednesday night’s game with a shot to win, but most felt like the Scarlet Knights had a serious shot to win after knocking off three straight ranked teams. And the team validated that belief, eventually grabbing an 11-point win over Illinois. Ron Harper led the way with 16 points. Cliff Omoruyi also had 15 points and 13 rebounds.
For Rutgers, it’s hard to even describe the run the team’s gone on this month. The Scarlet Knights have now won four straight and all four have come against top 25 teams, including one on the road against Wisconsin last Saturday. Without exaggerating, it’s basically been akin to a Final Four run.
And, obviously, those wins have fundamentally altered Rutgers’ projections this season. Rutgers is no longer a fringe NCAA hope. The team is now a solid bet to make the postseason. Even another win or two could very well put the team on the right side of the bubble. It’s been an absolutely wild run. Rutgers will hope to keep the magic going on Sunday on the road against Purdue.
For Illinois, the loss dropped the team to 18-7 overall and 11-4 in Big Ten play. The team effectively remains in first place in the conference standings, but no longer sits alone in the standings. It’s going to take a quality finish to the season to end up with the title. That effort will begin on Saturday on the road against Michigan State.
-No. 5 Purdue Boilermakers 70, Northwestern Wildcats 64
After some of Purdue’s recent road performances, this looked like it might be an intriguing game. Unfortunately for Wildcat fans, that didn’t end up being the case. Northwestern kept things competitive, but trailed for the duration of the second half en route to a six-point Purdue win. Zach Edey led the way with 14 points and eight rebounds.
The Boilermakers improved to 23-4 overall and 12-4 in Big Ten play with the win while Northwestern fell to 12-12 overall and 5-10 in Big Ten play with the loss. Purdue will now prepare for a red hot Rutgers team at home on Sunday. Northwestern will get Minnesota on the road on Saturday.